Stapp Inspires Educator Highlight – Eyes to the Sky

Welcome back! This month we are headed over to the Innovation Center (IC) to spend some time with Jake Marshall, Aeronautics Coordinator. Jake is starting his second year at the Innovation Center and with St. Vrain Valley Schools. He was previously a middle school teacher in the Thompson Valley School District. While with Thompson, he created and ran an afterschool club that focused on designing and building aircraft. He has always had a passion for flight and was excited to launch the IC Aeronautics program with St. Vrain.

jake-e1534343683831.jpg

When Jake and I sat down to talk, the new IC was still under construction. The excitement in the building was palpable. I asked Jake, “What drew you to St. Vrain.” He said he wanted to transition to working with high schoolers and thought St. Vrain would be a good fit. From what I saw, it has been a great fit. What Jake and his students were able to accomplish in just one school year, is nothing short of astounding!

For the 2017-2018 school year, Jake had 25 students participate in the Aeronautics program. These students worked on building – from scratch – different Unmanned Aircraft to spec for several different clients. They also had the opportunity to film commercials for district use. While enrolled in the Aeronautics program, they also have the opportunity to work towards earning their FAA Part 107 pilot license. This allows the students to fly drones commercially. He is in the process of building a partnership with AIMS Community College to allow his students to dual enroll in aeronautics classes as well.

While Jake has always had a passion for flight, he has not always found himself in the classroom. He spent a couple years as an engineer and quickly found that he did not like missing the important events in his family’s life. He transitioned to a social studies teacher at the middle school level and worked on curriculum and development. Then, he started an afterschool program where students were designing scratch built aircraft.

Jake showed me several different types of aircraft that his students were working on. While he explained the process, I started to hear a bit of the engineer come out. But I was never lost in ‘why things were designed the way they were’. Jake has an incredible ability to convey technical specifications in layman’s terms while sparking interest to learn more. It was incredible to see student work and understand the ‘why’.

Our conversation drifted to what was coming next. How would the move into the new 55,000 sq/ft IC improve the Aeronautics program. Well, Jake and his students will have a 300 foot runway and five acres of flight area to soar in. The smile on his face told me that this new school year couldn’t start soon enough. He gets excited when he thinks about expanding student opportunities – perhaps finding their career path in the sky. The connection with his students and watching them grow is the biggest reward for Jake.

As Jake and his students get ready to take off this year, we can only image where this program will go. We can’t wait to see what his students will design and come up with next. If you want a peek at what is going on in the IC Aeronautics program check out the following video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=39k1daN5mKA&index=4&list=PLelVGMkpbgfVV4IFfVV8VyazD7xSLJe9M

Jake took two of his students out to the construction site to document the progress and turned it into this video. Take a look!

Jake, congratulations on a great first year. We wish you and your students clear skies for flying high!

 

Advertisements

Stapp Inspires-One Step Ahead

Welcome back to Stapp Inspires Teacher Highlight! We are taking a trip back to the Innovation Center of St.Vrain Valley Schools to meet with Thom Ingram. Thom is an Instructional Technologist at the Innovation Center.

img_2337.jpg

The Innovation Center fills a unique place within the district and the staff reflects that with their skill set and expertise. Thom is no different, having spent 10 years in higher education before working for Apple. After spending 10 years working for Apple he started his career as a high school English teacher. I asked him what took him from working at Apple to wanting to teach high school students. He chuckled and said, “My wife.”  His wife asked him if Apple was going to be his career. Being a poet by birth and training he knew eventually he wanted to teach high school students, and the question was why not now? After teaching English in Fairfax County, Virginia for two years, the opportunity to move to the St. Vrain Valley and be apart of the Innovation Center was presented to him. The rest, as they say, is history.

While I was meeting with Thom, I caught a small glimpse of what it would be like to be one of his students. A staff member from St. Vrain came in with an issue on her Macbook. She didn’t come up and ask Thom if he could fix it, she went right into the Tech Lab where two students were working and began discussing the issue with them. He excused himself and went to observe the student who was diagnosing the Macbook. It is worth noting that the students who work in the Tech Lab have taken a class at the Innovation Center to become Apple certified Mac technicians. When Thom was at Apple, he was a Creative, instructing customers on how to use their Apple products, and an Apple Genius, repairing customer’s devices. He has taken the same curriculum and teaches it to high school students. No other high school in the country has a similar program. While in the lab, another student is troubleshooting a robot that will not connect properly with an iPad. The student finds a solution, but Thom encourages the student to shut everything off and try again to ensure that the problem is truly fixed.

I asked him what was his favorite part of his job. Thom said, “To watch students in 8th or 9th grade, who are finding their place, and see them become 11th and 12th graders who are now confident enough to present their ideas to CEOs.” The growth and development of students inspires Thom. I made a comment that it must be difficult to try and keep up with the pace of technology and be able to continue to give students the real world experience that helps give students a competitive edge. He smiled at me and replied that he has never taught the same class twice. He paused a moment and followed up with, “Any job is hard if you don’t love it. Doing what you are meant to do is easy.”

Thom has a natural ability to install confidence in his students. His students are free to come up with ideas, try them out, and if they don’t work, try again. His quiet confidence in his students’ abilities allows them to succeed beyond what even they thought possible. He gets excited to give students real-world experiences in high school that will help them further their careers once they graduate from St. Vrain Valley Schools. He instills the idea that learning new things is exciting, fun and cool.

Thom, thank you for your dedication to your students. We wish you the best as the Innovation Center looks to grow and expand in the coming years.

Stapp Inspires Teacher Highlight

 

Welcome back to our Stapp Inspires Teacher Highlight! I’m Erin, the Digital Marketing Manager for the dealership.

This month we want to take a closer look at the Innovation Center of St. Vrain Valley Schools (IC). The IC has been a part of the district for a few years now and has really filled a need in preparing students for life after they graduate. At the IC, students can get their Apple Certification or work on creating and producing a product that solves a need for real-world clients. St. Vrain Valley Schools is in the process of building a new Innovation Center with the groundbreaking scheduled to begin in early August and an anticipated start date of Fall 2018. The passage of the bond in November of 2016 will allow St. Vrain to expand and branch out to all students. The new facility will be a hub for the entire district. Both students and educators will have access to the latest in industry standard tools and experts in the field.

As with any project, the success of the new facility depends on the team that is running it. Meet Axel Reitzig, he is the Robotics and Computer Science Coordinator for the IC. He has been an educator for a total of 25 years. He started teaching German at a college level. He later decided to pursue his German and Language Arts endorsement and taught middle schoolers for a few years. Eventually he went through the Library Sciences program and was teaching STEM with robotics and Computer Science emphasis before coming to the IC. I had the opportunity to spend some time with him recently.

Axel Reitzig

 

Axel has that intangible quality that you hope every teacher has. In just talking to him, I was ready to go back to high school and sign up for one of his classes. He is truly an expert in his field, but always yields to letting students find their own answers. He believes that we are all creative problem solvers and innovators. Axel focuses on three components when interacting with his students; engagement, challenge and transformation.

He said students need to be ‘engaged ‘with the world around them, not just intellectually, but emotionally and socially as well. The ‘challenge’ part is making sure students are applying their skills authentically, that there is a true means to an end, not just filling out a worksheet. Where the struggle to learn a certain math component goes from dread because “it has no purpose” to  “if you want your project, or app to work you need to figure this out”. And finally, ‘transformation’. Can students apply what they have learned to something they have to design?

His quiet passion for his students and their work is evident. He enjoys providing his students authentic learning opportunities, where abstract becomes concrete and projects are meaningful to students. On thing he said has stuck with me. When talking about his students and their work he said. “Students are natural learners and problems solvers. They want to help and make a real difference in their world.”  We then took a look at one project the students are currently working on for Boulder County Open Space.

 

Do you remember when students from Skyline created the underwater camera so a researcher in Peru could study frogs in their natural habitat? (If not see here). Boulder County Open Space intrigued by the project, asked the students if they could build something able to create topographical maps of the lakes, streams, and ponds.

Sometimes certain aspects are outside Axel’s realm of expertise. The entire team at the IC has reached out and partnered with members of the community to provide support for some of these projects. Retired engineers and IT specialists are just a few of the people who mentor and help support these students.

Axel is also quick to highlight what his colleagues are up to. I got the sense that even though I was only talking to Axel, a strong team mentality exists at the IC. Axel doesn’t work as a teacher telling students the outcomes of their projects, but as a facilitator instead. He said, “The best thing I can do is let students take technology out for a ‘test drive’. I want to provide opportunities for transformative experiences. I get out of the way, and if needed, provide help or find someone who can help.”

Axel, thank you for your time and dedication to all students within our community. Thank you for taking the time to meet with us. We are excited to partner and support the IC and St. Vrain Valley Schools.

We wish you and your entire team the best as you work to expand and open the new Innovation Center.